Broadside Press of Detroit. (Bibliography)

Article excerpt

Broadside Press of Detroit has a national reputation as a publisher of African-American poetry. One of the many publishing houses that grew out of the civil unrest of the 1960s, Broadside Press successfully met the need for a place where African-American voices could be heard. By publishing mostly inexpensive paperbacks and broadsides and making them widely available, especially in African-American bookstores, the press filled a demand for African-American poetry and flourished for several years. Dudley Randall (1914-) is the founder of Broadside Press. He operated the press out of his home for many years, and his was the guiding vision of the press.

Broadside Press grew out of Dudley Randall's need to establish copyright for his own poetry, the lack of interest in African-American poetry shown by establishment publishers, and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. This combination of personal and national factors helped Broadside Press to become a successful publishing company. The vibrant poetry of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements was made available to readers who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to read it. "The establishment in the mid-sixties of Broadside Press was at the time quite an event. Owned and run by Black people, publishing the literature of Black poets, primarily, and aiming at a Black audience, for most of the poets who have published in it as well as for most of the readers, it filled a glaring gap in our aesthetic needs." (1)

The urge to establish copyright for two of his poems led to Dudley Randall's first publishing venture. He wrote, "Our first publication was the Broadside `Ballad of Birmingham.' Folk singer Jerry Moore of New York had set it to music, and I wanted to protect the rights to the poem by getting it copyrighted. Learning that a leaflet could be copyrighted, I published it as a Broadside. Jerry Moore also set the ballad `Dressed All in Pink' to music, and in order to copyright it, I printed this poem also as a Broadside.... Since Broadsides, at that time, were the company's sole product, I gave it the name Broadside Press." (2)

The establishment presses did not support either Randall's work or the work of other African-American authors, and this spurred the press's expansion:

   The most obvious reason [for the establishment of Black presses] was
   because Black authors could not be published by white publications, white
   magazines, or by white publishers. We had to do it ourselves. The other day
   I was looking through my files and I found the manuscript of my first book
   of poetry, Poem Counterpoem, which I did with Margaret Danner. Accompanying
   the manuscript was a rejection slip from Harcourt, Brace & Company. We had
   sent the book to a number of publishers.... By the time I got it rejected
   by Harcourt, Brace I thought we'd just better go ahead and publish the book
   ourselves, which we did.... So I think we have to thank Harcourt, Brace for
   making Broadside Press a publisher of books as well as Broadsides. (3)

Broadside Press was not the only small press established at this time to promote the work of African Americans. A variety of publishing enterprises in several locations around the country made the work of black writers available to as many people as possible:

   There are publishers like Joe Goncalves of Journal of Black Poetry Press,
   Dudley Randall of Broadside Press, Ahmed Alhamisi of Black Arts Press,
   Robert Hayden of Counterpoise Series, and Paul Breman (a Dutchman) of
   Heritage Series, who publish pamphlets of poetry and free black poets from
   dependence upon commercial publishers. There has been a proliferation of
   black bookstores which afford outlets for their books. In New York,
   Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Wilmington, and other
   cities, stores specializing in Afro-American history and literature are
   doing a flourishing business. …